Benny Golson

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Benny Golson

Benny Golson (born January 25, 1929 in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania ) is an American tenor saxophonist , composer and arranger of hard bop . He is one of the style-forming representatives of hard bop and emphasizes its lyrical side. He became known through his playing at Art Blakeys Jazz Messengers and his longstanding involvement in Art Farmer / Benny Golson-Jazztet. His compositions like Blues March , Whisper Not or I Remember Clifford are among the most played in the hard bop repertoire.

Live and act

The early years

Golson played the piano at the age of nine and tenor saxophone at the age of 14. Even during high school in Philadelphia he played with musicians of his generation such as John Coltrane , Red Garland , Jimmy Heath , Percy Heath , Philly Joe Jones and Red Rodney .

After graduating from Howard University , Golson toured with various rock and roll bands, then found a job with Bull Moose Jackson's Rhythm and Blues Band in the summer of 1953 . The pianist in this band was Tadd Dameron ; he became a great role model for Golson in terms of compositional technique and encouraged him to write his own pieces. In 1953 he finally played in Dameron's band and went to New York with him. There he played with Lionel Hampton (1953), Earl Bostic (1954-55) and finally in Dizzy Gillespies Band from 1956 to 1958. The entry into this band helped Golson to his first successes: titles like I Remember Clifford or Whisper Not were later to popular jazz standards , Stablemates was recorded by Miles Davis in 1955; and James Moody took soon music by Benny Golson.

Hardbop - The Jazz Messengers

Benny Golson; 2006

Golson made his debut as leader of his own formation in October 1957 (Benny Golson's New York Scene) with Art Farmer on trumpet. In 1958 he became a member and musical director of the Jazz Messengers of the drummer Art Blakey for one year .

Strongly influenced by Golson, one of the key hardbop records was created: Moanin ' (October 1958) with Golson, Blakey, Lee Morgan , Bobby Timmons and Jymie Merritt . Benny Golson was only with Blakey for a short time, but contributed significant parts of the long-standing repertoire of the band, such as Blues March , Along Came Betty or Whisper Not and created a new soundscape for the band. Golson also went on a tour of France with the Jazz Messengers (a live album (Paris 1958) was recorded in Paris). Golson created the music for Édouard Molinaro's film Des Femmes Disparaissent with the Messengers .

Hardbop - Das Art Farmer / Benny Golson Jazztet

Golson's personal relationship with Art Farmer dates back to 1953 when they played together in Lionel Hampton's band. They met again in New York at recordings for George Russell (New York, NY). At the end of 1958 they made recordings for the United Artists label; Golson appeared on Farmer's records Modern Art and Brass Shout (1958).

In May 1959 Benny Golson played in the quintet of trombonist Curtis Fuller ; thus the records Blues-ette were made for Savoy Records , The Curtis Fuller Jazztet with Benny Golson in August 1959 , Imagination in December . Benny Golson wanted to form a sextet in 1959 (with an additional trombone part instead of the quintets customary at the time) and asked Art Farmer , who was about to leave Gerry Mulligan . Art added his brother, bassist Addison Farmer and drummer Dave Bailey (from the Mulligan band); Golson wanted Curtis Fuller and a 19-year-old pianist he knew from Philadelphia, McCoy Tyner . The formation's official debut was a gig at the New York jazz club Five Spot in November 1959, where Ornette Coleman's quartet had just caused a sensation. The only thing missing was the name of the new band; Golson and Farmer asked Curtis Fuller if they could use the name Jazztet , which he had used for the Savoy sessions. In February 1960 the first Jazztet record, Meet The Jazztet , was finally recorded , in September Big City Sounds .

The three years in the first Art Farmer / Benny Golson Jazztet were the beginning of a collaboration that would stretch over four decades (until Art Farmers death on October 4, 1999), but culminated in the sessions for the Argo and Mercury -Label from February 1960 to June 1962. After the first two albums, the Jazztet LPs The Jazztet - Big City Sounds, The Jazztet & John Lewis, The Jazztet At Birdhouse, Here And Now, Another Git Together with the (changing) Musicians Grachan Moncur III , Cedar Walton , Tommy Flanagan , Albert Heath , Tom McIntosh and Tommy Williams . For the Jazztet, Golson et al. a. the compositions Killer Joe , Along Came Betty , Five Spot After Dark , Blues On Down .

In March 1962, Farmer and Golson signed a new record deal with the Mercury label, which gave them more room for solo projects. The band has now been joined by pianist Harold Mabern , trombonist Grachan Monchur III, bassist Herbie Lewis and drummer Roy McCurdy . The pieces Tonk, Space Station and Sonny´s Back were so likely to hit that they were also recorded as shorter versions for single release. The success of the jazz set inspired Miles Davis and Art Blakey to adopt the sextet format.

The late years

In the following years after the Jazztet was temporarily disbanded, Golson briefly led a big band , then concentrated on studio and orchestral work and settled in Hollywood as a film and TV composer , but recorded again in the late 1960s. Since the early 1980s, Golson appeared with the revived Jazztet, which again included his co-founders Art Farmer and Curtis Fuller; they went on tours together and played at festivals, the albums Moment To Moment (1983), Real Time, Back To The City (1986) were created. In the 1990s, Golson played a number of records with his own band - which included pianist Mulgrew Miller , bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Tony Reedus . In 1997 a record was made with tenor saxophonist Ron Blake (Remembering Clifford), in 1999 with Nat Adderley and Monty Alexander (That's funky), on which they reinterpreted jazz standards such as The Sidewinder , Work Song , Moritat, Blues March and Moanin´ . During this time Golson also dealt with classical compositions: in 1994 he wrote his first symphony Two Faces , which premiered at Lincoln Center New York. Golson also wrote a violin piece for Itzhak Perlman . In 2005 his classical piano work was performed. In 2006 the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra performed his new composition Above And Beyond with Golson as conductor . From 2000 he also worked with Ron Carter , Joe Farnsworth , Pierre-Yves Sorin , Tom McIntosh , Jimmy Amadie , Joris Dudli , Rudolf Dašek , Aaron Diehl , Valery Ponomarev . He also continued to record albums under his own name, such as 2015 Horizon Ahead , with Mike LeDonne , Buster Williams and Carl Allen .

Benny Golson's style of music

Benny Golson

Benny Golson explored the romantic potential of hardbop as a soloist, composer and arranger with the Jazz Messengers and the Jazztet. His style is determined by a warm, delicate tone, similar to that of Ben Webster , melodic and harmonic ideas as well as a dominant lyricism. So he follows the ideas of his teacher Tadd Dameron of a gentle gold-ground sound, created by skillful voice exchange processes of the three melody instruments saxophone (Golson), trumpet (Farmer) and trombone (Fuller). Joachim Ernst Berendt describes Golson's style somewhat prosaically using the example of his art of improvisation, which is a piece of the past full of melancholy, long-forgotten magic, as is his arrangements. Golson's role models are the tenor saxophone soloists of late swing and bebop, such as Coleman Hawkins , Lucky Thompson , Don Byas and Paul Gonsalves , also integrating the rhythm and blues sound of Eddie Lockjaw Davis . His style was later stimulated by contemporary tenorists such as John Coltrane . His vibrato with its humming dark sound created a very unique sound in jazz.


In 1995 Benny Golson received the Jazz Masters Award . He holds honorary degrees from William Paterson College, Wayne, New Jersey and the Berklee School of Music, Boston, MA.

The compositions

His most famous compositions include:

Golson claims to have written or arranged over 300 pieces in the course of his musical career, such as for Count Basie , John Coltrane , Miles Davis , Ella Fitzgerald , Dizzy Gillespie , Benny Goodman , Lionel Hampton , Shirley Horn , Quincy Jones , Peggy Lee , Carmen McRae , Anita O'Day , Oscar Peterson , Mel Tormé , George Shearing and many pop artists, as well as for TV series and films such as M * A * S * H , Mannix , Mission Impossible and commercials for companies such as Chevrolet, Gilette, Heinz, Mattel, Texaco.

Discography (selection)

As a leader

1957: Walkin´ ( Fresh Sound Records ) with Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller, Eric Dolphy, Wayne Shorter, Bill Evans 1957: Benny Golson´s New York Scene (OJC) with Art Farmer, Julius Watkins, Gigi Gryce, Sahib Shihab

  • 1957: The Modern Touch (OJC) with Kenny Dorham, JJ Johnson, Wynton Kelly
  • 1958: Benny Golson And the Philadephians (United Artists / Blue Note) with Lee Morgan, Ray Bryant, Bobby Timmons, Percy Heath
  • 1958: The Other Side Of Benny Golson (OJC) with Curtis Fuller, Barry Harris, Jimie Merritt
  • 1959: Gone With Golson (OJC) with Curtis Fuller, Ray Bryant
  • 1959: Groovin 'With Golson (OJC) with Curtis Fuller, Ray Bryant
  • 1959: Getting 'With It (New Jazz / OJC) with Fuller, Tommy Flanagan, Doug Watkins
  • 1960: Take A Number From 1 To 10 (Argo)
  • 1962: Turning Point (Mercury), Free (Argo)
  • 1965: Three Little Words (Jazz House) with Stan Tracey, Rick Laird, Billy Hart
  • 1967: Tune In, Turn On (Verve) with Art Farmer, Eric Gale
  • 1979: Blues on Down
  • 1983: California Message (Timeless) with Curtis Fuller
  • 1983: This Is For You, John (Timeless) with Pharoah Sanders, Cedar Walton, Ron Carter, Jack De Johnette
  • 1985: Time Speaks (Timeless) with Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Ben Riley, Kenny Barron, Cecil McBee
  • 1986: Up Jumped Benny! (Arkadia) with Kevin Hays
  • 1989: Live (Dreyfus) with Mulgrew Miller, Peter Washington, Tony Reedus
  • 1990: Stardust (Denon) with Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter, Marvin Smith, Mulgrew Miller
  • 1990: Benny Golson Quartet (LRC) with Mulgrew Miller, Rufus Reid, Tony Reedus
  • 1991: Domingo (Dreyfus) with Curtis Fuller
  • 1992: I Remember Miles (Evidence) Eddie Henderson, Curtis Fuller, Mulgrew Miller, Ray Drummond
  • 1996: Tenor Legacy (Arkadia) with Branford Marsalis, James Carter, Harold Ashby
  • 1997: Remembering Clifford (Milestone) with Ron Blake
  • 1999: That's Funky (Arkadia) with Nat Adderley, Monty Alexander, Ray Drummond, Marvin Smitty Smith
  • 2003: The Masquerade Is Over (Azzurra Music) with Massimo Faraó, Aldo Zunino & Bobby Durham
  • 2009: new time, new `tet (Concord Music Group)
  • 2016: Horizon Ahead (High Note) with Mike LeDonne, Buster Williams, Carl Allen

The Art Farmer / Benny Golson Jazztet

  • The Complete Argo / Mercury Art Farmer / Benny Golson Sessions with the Jazztet records
  • Meet The Jazztet
  • The Jazztet - Big City Sounds (Argo)
  • The Jazztet The Jazztet and John Lewis (Argo)
  • The Jazztet At Birdhouse (Argo)
  • Here And Now (Mercury)
  • Another Git Together (Mercury)
  • Moment To Moment (Soul Note, 1983) Farmer, Golson, Fuller, Mickey Tucker (p), Ray Drummond (b), Albert Heath (dr)
  • Real Time (Contemporary, 1986) Farmer, Golson, Fuller, Mickey Tucker (p), Ray Drummond (b), Marvin Smitty Smith (dr)
  • Back To The City (Contemporary, 1986) Farmer, Golson, Fuller, Mickey Tucker (p), Ray Drummond (b), Marvin Smitty Smith (dr)

As a sideman

Benny Golson has made records as a sideman with Ahmed Abdul-Malik , Conte Candoli , Eric Dolphy , Dizzy Gillespie , Ernie Henry , Philly Joe Jones , Roland Kirk , John Lewis , Abbey Lincoln , Bill Henderson , Dinah Washington and Lem Winchester . The records are among his most important recordings as a sideman

  • Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Moanin´ (Blue Note, 1958)
  • Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Paris 1958 (RCA Bluebird)
  • Art Farmer: Modern Art (Blue Note, 1958)
  • Curtis Fuller: Blues-ette ( Savoy Records , 1959), The Curtis Fuller Jazztet with Benny Golson (Savoy, 1959)
  • Wynton Kelly: Kelly Blue (OJC, 1959)
  • Kevin Mahogany : You Got What It Takes (Enja, 1995)
  • Junior Mance: Floating Festival Trio ( Chiaroscuro , 1995)
  • Charles Mingus: Mingus Dynasty (Columbia, 1959)
  • Blue Mitchell: Out Of The Blue (OJC, 1959), Blues On my mind (OJC, 1959)
  • James Moody: Moody's Mood For Love (Chess, 1956/7)
  • George Russell: New York, NY (Impulse !, 1958–59)
  • Lem Winchester : Winchester Special (New Jazz Records / OJC, 1959)



  • Siegfried Schmidt-Joos: Jazz - Face of a Music , 1960
  • Joachim Ernst Berendt: The Jazz Book . Krüger, Frankfurt / Main 1976, ISBN 3-59-6105153
  • Bob Blumenthal: Liner notes from 2004 for the CD edition The Complete Argo / Mercury Art Farmer / Benny Golson / Jazztet Sessions (Mosaic)
  • Stanley Crouch, liner notes for The Art Farmer / Benny Golson Jazztet / Back To The City (Contemporary, 1986)
  • Martin Kunzler : Jazz Lexicon. Volume 1: A – L (= rororo-Sachbuch. Vol. 16512). 2nd Edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-499-16512-0 .
  • Richard Cook , Brian Morton : The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings . 8th edition. Penguin, London 2006, ISBN 0-14-102327-9 .


Benny Golson worked in the film Terminal as a supporting actor in the final scene. He embodied himself.

Web links


  1. In the wake of the painful loss of just then fatally injured trumpeter Clifford Brown wrote this piece Golson 1956: It was created spontaneously during a performance with the Gillespie band, learned as the musicians of the accident and Golson about his play Whisper Not improvierierte
  2. Golson's friend from Philadelphia, John Coltrane brokered the piece for Davis, quoted in. according to Bert Noglik, Jazzzeitung 2006/2
  3. His predecessor in the band at the time, Jackie McLean , had lost his license to perform, the cabaret card, because of a drug offense. Golson was originally only supposed to step in for a short-term appearance at Cafe Bohemia in New York , but then became a permanent member of the Jazz Messengers: Blakey quickly recognized his musical and organizational talent; Golson took care of the band's finances, set the repertoire, contributed his own pieces and hired new musicians. Golson left Art Blakey without a fight, in the long run the Jazz Messengers could not exist with two leader figures; quoted after Bert Noglik, on the 75th birthday of Benny Golson, Jazzzeitung 2004/2
  4. RCA Bluebird - recorded at the St. Germain Jazz Club, Paris, December 21, 1958
  5. The Fuller band this record took as The Curtis Fuller Sextets on
  6. At the same time, Farmer and Golson are working on solo projects - Benny Golson: Take A Number From 1 To 10 (Argo, December 13, 1960); The Benny Golson Quartet: Turning Point ( Mercury Records 1962), Free (Argo, 1962) - Art Farmer: Perception (Argo, 1961), Listen To Art Farmer & The Orchestra (Mercury 1962)
  7. Nat Adderley's last recording of his composition
  8. cit. according to Kunzler, p. 420
  9. cit. after Berendt Das Jazzbuch , p. 213
  10. cit. after Stanley Crouch , liner notes to Jazztet / Back To The City
  11. ^ Benny Golson Official Website
  12. (The 7 CDs contain the sessions of the Jazztet from 1960 to 1962 and the solo projects of the two musicians with Argo / Mercury until 1962)
  13. (Farmer, Fuller, Golson, McCoy Tyner (p), Addison Farmer (b), Lex Humphries (dr), February 6, February 9, February 10, 1960)
  14. (Farmer, Golson, Tom McIntosh (tb), Cedar Walton (p), Tommy Williams (b), Albert Heath (dr), September 16, September 19, September 20, 1960)
  15. ((Farmer, Golson, Tom McIntosh (tb), Cedar Walton (p), Tommy Williams (b), Albert Heath (dr), John Lewis (arr), December 20-21, 1960, January 9, 1961)
  16. (Farmer, Golson, Tom McIntosh (tb), Cedar Walton (p), Tommy Williams (b), Albert Heath (dr), Live Chicago, Birdhouse, May 15, 1961)
  17. ((Farmer, Golson, Grachan Monchur III (tb), Harold Mabern (p), Herbie Lewis (b), Roy McCurdy (dr), New York, February 28, 1962), the titles Sonný Back were released as single releases and Tonk
  18. (Farmer, Golson, Grachan Monchur III (tb), Harold Mabern (p), Herbie Lewis (b), Roy McCurdy (dr), New York, May 28, 1962), the tracks Another Git Together were released as single releases and Space Station
  19. Selection based on Morton & Cook, Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD